So I was speaking on the phone with a friend last night who has just moved from Canada to take an academic job in the U.S. So I did to her what all the Canadians did to me when we arrived here. “So? What’s it like? What are the differences? Have you considered starting a blog?” I asked. She mentioned three things that are immediately obvious but that I’d already forgotten:
1. American undergradaute students are much more likely to be religious.
2. You can’t get a drink anywhere on campus.
3. Everyone eats lunch at their desks.
These three items are probably related [cough]PURITANISM[/cough] but let me focus on #2.
Before moving to McGill, I had only even heard of one campus where it would be possible to get a drink. That was the bar at UW-Madison, which was both quirky (ooo! a bar on campus!) and legendary. Now, perhaps as a faculty member I should have been able to get a drink at a faculty club. But if the University of Pittsburgh had a faculty club, I never saw it. And the faculty club at the University of Minnesota, where I once dined with a prof, didn’t seem to have any alcohol.
Of course, at McGill faculty members have the choice of the faculty club and Thomson House, both of which are regularly used following talks. Though I choose Thomson House whenever possible. I’d never even heard of a graduate student union before coming here. It’s a great idea. And though I drink very little, there is some deep comment about the sociability of academic life both here and “back home down south.” I didn’t think of academic life as not sociable in the U.S. until I moved here. . . . Though to be fair, it varies by institution and location. The lunch thing, meanwhile speaks of an orientation toward work in general, which is still very much in me even though I relish the sociability of McGill’s culture. I still tend to view lunch as a meal that interferes with the workday. So I eat it at my desk. Goddamned Protestant Ethic.